Size of the universe

The size of the universe refers to the relative size of the universe and entities contained within it. The universe is vast; it has been expanding for almost 13.8 billion years at a considerable fraction of the speed of light,[1] so it is roughly 13 billion light years across. This means that the universe is ~1.3 x 1026 m across. For a reference of size, humans are usually under 2 m tall, atoms are approximately 10-10 m across, and nuclei are approximately 10-15 m across.[2] There is a difference of a factor of 1041 between the universe and a nucleus, which can be written out as 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000, a number so large it is hard to wrap one's head around.

Here are some useful on-line tools that compare the sizes of various objects in the universe:

  • The King Centre for visualization in science[3], specifically their scale of the cosmos
  • The htwins project (click on the start button and then click on the notes to mute the music)
  • Hyperphysics has a nice analogy here that helps scale the size of the universe.


Here is a video from IMAX cosmic voyage which demonstrates size comparisons between various entities (music from "The Matrix" movie-trilogy and "Awake" by Jake Kaufman):

Please contact us with other tools showing the size of the universe in interesting ways.

For Further Reading

References

  1. For some interesting reading please see: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/uni_expansion.html
  2. Sears and Zemanski's University Physics, 13th edition by Young and Freedman. Addison Wesley, 2010. Chapter 43, pg 1440.
  3. http://www.kcvs.ca/site/projects/astronomy.html

Authors and Editors

Sarjana Amin, Allison Campbell, Ashley Sheardown, Kailyn Stenhouse, Jason Donev
Last updated: January 4, 2019
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